Charming Naini Tal. We stopped to watch a game of cricket in progress in the large maidan on the west end of the lake. Was there a Manish Pandey developing in front of our eyes? That young man might have played on this field as a child. Kumaon has produced its share of cricketers recently; Ekta Bisht is probably the highest achiever among them. Some good playing but no pyrotechnics today on field. We moved away.
A touristy shop nearby was full of fancy candles, interesting fridge magnets, and herbal oils. The Family looked at the young girls managing the store and said “They should be studying.” At the check out counter she took a survey. Most of them were in college, working at this shop part time. The youngest had a hangdog look. “I’ve just finished class 12. I don’t want to go to college.”
Right in the middle of Mall Road was a large hotel in a meld of Kumaoni craftsmanship and colonial architecture, now completely empty. We scoped it out for a future visit. The manager was happy to show us several rooms. We loved the old-fashioned suites. It is old, and one can probably find more comfortable rooms elsewhere in town, but nothing half as charming. It even had parking. Perhaps an interesting place for a couple of nights in the autumn.
We walked along the narrow path between Mall Road and the Naini lake. Out of curiosity I checked Google ngrams, and found a surprising fact. The word “mall” was most popular in the mid-18th century, when it was used in the sense that the Mall Roads in colonial towns still evoke. The late-20th century revival of this word with its modern changed meaning is a lesser blip. We came to this interesting gate. What large eyes you have, Grandma! Naini Tal is idiosyncratic, and when the tourists are thin on the ground you can still enjoy the place.